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Anal Chem. 2004 Jul 15;76(14):3935-43.

Selective isolation at the femtomole level of phosphopeptides from proteolytic digests using 2D-NanoLC-ESI-MS/MS and titanium oxide precolumns.

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Department of Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry, Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research and Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Sorbonnelaan 16, 3584 CA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Selective detection of phosphopeptides from proteolytic digests is a challenging and highly relevant task in many proteomics applications. Often phosphopeptides are present in small amounts and need selective isolation or enrichment before identification. Here we report a novel automated method for the enrichment of phosphopeptides from complex mixtures. The method employs a two-dimensional column setup, with titanium oxide-based solid-phase material (Titansphere) as the first dimension and reversed-phase material as the second dimension. Phosphopeptides are separated from nonphosphorylated peptides by trapping them under acidic conditions on a TiO(2) precolumn. Nonphosphorylated peptides break through and are trapped on a reversed-phase precolumn after which they are analyzed by nanoflow LC-ESI-MS/MS. Subsequently, phosphopeptides are desorbed from the TiO(2) column under alkaline conditions, reconcentrated onto the reversed-phase precolumn, and analyzed by nanoflow LC-ESI-MS/MS. The selectivity and practicality of using TiO(2) precolumns for trapping phosphopeptides are demonstrated via the analysis of a model peptide RKISASEF, in a 1:1 mixture of a non- and a monophosphorylated form. A sample of 125 fmol of the phosphorylated peptide could easily be isolated from the nonphosphorylated peptide with a recovery above 90%. In addition, proteolytic digests of three different autophosphorylation forms of the 153-kDa homodimeric cGMP-dependent protein kinase are analyzed. From proteolytic digests of the fully autophosphorylated protein at least eight phosphorylation sites are identified, including two previously uncharacterized sites, namely, Ser-26 and Ser-44. Ser-26 is characterized as a minor phosphorylation site in purified PKG samples, while Ser-44 is identified as a novel in vitro autophosphorylation target. These results clearly show that TiO(2) has strong affinity for phosphorylated peptides, and thus, we conclude that this material has a high potential in the field of phosphoproteomics.

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